Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come on him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite…
The prompting of pure and faithful friendship leads Job's friends to hurry to his help. They "come to mourn with him and to comfort him." When yet afar off they lift up their eyes and behold their friend. But, alas! disease has wrought so great a change in him that they know him not. Then "they lifted up their voice, and wept." In their wild, ungoverned passionate grief "they rent every one his mantle," and seizing the dust of the ground they cast it in the air toward heaven, and let it fall on their heads in token of their grief. Thus with signs of deep suffering in sympathy with their friend they cast their cry with the sand upwards to heaven. Then, with great skill, the writer indicates the helplessness of men in the presence of overwhelming Sorrow. "They sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great." So the sorrow that extorted the wild cry of pity closed the lips of consolation. We behold the men staggered by the bitterness of their friend's lot. He cannot help himself, and they cannot help him. How true a picture of all deep Sorrow! It is to be said by every severe sufferer as by the typical One," Of the people there was none with me;" for even tender, loving sympathy cannot penetrate to the depths of another's sufferings. With these feelings we gaze on the sufferer, feeling how painful it is to be unable to extend a helpful hand or to speak an effectual word. It is humiliating to us. It is abasing to our pride.
I. THE CAUSES OF OUR IMPOTENCE IN PRESENCE OF SEVERE SUFFERING ARE:
1. Our inability to descend to the depth of the sorrow of another. It is only as we ourselves are sufferers that we can know what others feel. We must have drunk of the same cup if we would know its bitterness.
2. But even though we have suffered as we see others suffer, no words, even of the tenderest pity, can effectually relieve the mourner. Hollow human words, words of merely pretended sympathy, only wound the sufferer more deeply; while words of true friendship, cooling and cheering as they may be, can take up no part of the burden. For a time they draw off the mind of the sufferer from his sorrow, but it returns as a flowing tide.
II. THE PAINFULNESS TO A TRUE FRIEND OF CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE EFFECTUALLY TO AID THE SUFFERER. Days or hours of silence are days or hours of keen suffering to the faithful friend unable to stanch the wound, to abate the fever, to restore the lost possession or the lost friend. By all we are driven to -
III. THE TRUE AND ONLY EFFECTUAL SYMPATHIZER, THE GOD-MAN, who, having suffered, and having power to descend to the lowest depths of the human heart, and having the Divine resources at command, the power to inspire the word of consolation and supporting strength; and who, measuring the need of the sufferer, can abate the severity of bodily pain or mental anguish. To the sufferer the welcome of this honest sympathy opens the door for the incoming of the true Healer and Comforter and Helper, who can give strength to the feeble, and, above all, can sanctify sorrow and calamity to higher ends, and make all things work together for good. He can brighten hope and sustain faith and strengthen patience, can soothe the fretted spirit, and give peace and joy and life. - R.G.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.
WEB: Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come on him, they each came from his own place: Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and to comfort him.